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The Brief: Nov. 12, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case with the power to dramatically alter the future of voting rights in Texas.

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The Big Conversation:

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case with the power to dramatically alter the future of voting rights in Texas.

The court announced on Friday that it would hear a challenge to a key provision of the 1965 Civil Rights Act requiring Texas and several other states and local governments — mostly in the South — to seek approval, or "preclearance," from the federal government before altering their voting laws.

The suit, brought by Shelby County, Ala., argues that the states and municipalities covered by the provision have overcome the blatant racial discrimination that led the federal government to approve such voting protections for minorities in the 1960s.

"The America that elected and re-elected Barack Obama … is far different than when the Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965," said Edward Blum of the Project on Fair Representation, a legal group that helped bring the suit, according to The Washington Post

Civil rights groups, meanwhile, have called the provision more essential than ever, citing voter ID laws and redistricting efforts that they claim Republicans have used to undermine minorities' political power.

"In the midst of the recent assault on voter access, the Voting Rights Act is playing a pivotal role beating back discriminatory voting measures," said Debo P. Adegbile, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's acting president, according to The New York Times.

A decision against Section 5 would likely free states, including Texas, of federal oversight, allowing them to change their election laws at will. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has previously argued for that right in a case that the Supreme Court could still take up.

The high court will hear arguments in the Shelby case next spring and likely issue an opinion in the summer.

Culled:

  • The Dallas Morning News reported over the weekend that George P. Bush, who stirred speculation last week after filing paperwork with the state to run for office, may be likely eyeying the role of state land commissioner. The current land commissioner, Jerry Patterson, thinks so, too. "If I were to pick, I would think his first choice is the Land Office," Patterson told the San Antonio Express-News. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush, had been rumored as a candidate for land commissioner or attorney general.
  • Former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia on Friday announced that she would run for the state Senate seat formerly held by Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, who died last month. In a special election to be called by Gov. Rick Perry, Garcia will face Democratic competition from state Rep. Carol Alvarado and, as the Houston Chronicle reports, possibly former U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega. Alvarado, a state representative from Houston who is said to have been Gallegos' choice to replace him, is expected to officially announce her candidacy today.
  • State Rep. Joaquin Castro, who was elected to Congress last week, appeared Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, where he was asked about the election, Republicans' difficulties attracting Hispanics and the fiscal cliff. "I don’t think it’s a rubber stamp," the San Antonio Democrat said of the president's re-election. "But I do think that the American people have said to Barack Obama, we agree with you on a lot of this stuff and we want the Republican Congress to come along."

"If another Republican man says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime, I want to personally cut out his tongue." — Former George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes in a Politico column

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